Community Land Trust
 
As an essential part of the urban ecovillage Glossary Link organic development process, The Glossary Link Alchemical Nursery Project is developing a Community Land Trust model with local stakeholders to address issues of gentrification in developing neighborhoods and fight the mal-effects of the commodification of housing (a basic need and right), as well as to offer a potential option ot community gardens in the city as a means of addressing land tenure issues.
 
We are working hard with other local organizations in our primary target area on the Westside to begin to meet our future neighbors and to work with them and for them. One exciting project we are collaborating on is the Dream Neighborhood community charrette to be offered as part of the Sustainability Academy in these neighborhoods. This grassroots community organizing and action are essential first steps to the creation of a Community Land Trust to serve the needs of our community.
 
Our first property for the trust will be 717 Otisco Street - which will also be the first property in our target area for the Alchemical Nursery Urban Ecovillage, as well as the initial base of operations for our Urban CSA Program!
 
What is a Community Land Trust?
 
A community land trust is an 'organization created to hold land for the benefit of a community and of individuals within the community. It is a democratically structured nonprofit corporation, with an open membership and a board of trustees elected by the membership. The board typically includes resident of trust-owned lands, other community residents, and public-interest representatives. Board members are elected for limited terms, so that the community retains ultimate control of the organization and of the land it owns.

The CLT acquires land through purchase or donation with an intention to retain title in perpetuity, thus removing the land from the speculative market. Appropriate uses for the land are determined in a process comparable to public planning or zoning processes, and the land is then leased to individuals, families, cooperatives, community organizations, businesses, or for public purposes. Normally, the CLT offers lifetime or long-term leases which may be transferred to the leaseholder’s heirs if they wish to continue the use of the land.
Leaseholders must use the land in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, but the CLT may not interfere in their personal beliefs, associations, or activities.
Leases are given only to those who will use the land. Priority in leasing is usually given to those whose needs are greatest, though individual needs must, of course, be matched with the capacity of a particular piece of land.  Leaseholders pay a regular lease fee based on "use value" rather than "full market value" of land but they do not need to make down payments and do not need conventional credit or financing to gain access to the land. While lease holders do not own the land they use, they may own buildings and other improvements on it.

If leaseholders leave the land and terminate the lease, they may sell or remove the improvements which they own. Typically, the CLT retains a first option to buy the improvements at the owner’s original invested cost, often adjusted for inflation, depreciation, and damage during the ownership period. This property can then be sold to the next leaseholder. Thus, the first leaseholder is guaranteed equity in the improvements, and the succeeding leaseholder is able to by the improvements at a fair price.
No seller will profit from unearned increases in market value, and no buyer will be priced out of the market by such increases. Any increase in value that is not due to a leaseholder’s efforts will remain with the CLT.
Thus neither the CLT nor the leaseholder holds the land itself as a commodity. The CLT holds it as a basic resource in which the community and individuals within the community are acknowledged to have certain legitimate interests.  In this situation the lease agreement becomes the specific, flexible, legal means by which the legitimate interests of both the community and the individual leaseholder are explicitly described and protected in accordance with the policies of the CLT.

Individual Interests

Security
: A long term lease providing for the permanent affordability of the housing. Individual homeowners in the CLT have security in their long term lease and title to their home, they won’t be forced out by a landlord who can make more money renting to others. By joining together CLT members assure themselves of more support from others and greater access to financing than as individuals.  In times of hardship the CLT may be able to reduce its lese fees because of its broader financial base.
 
Earned Equity: Individual home owners in the CLT can generate equity in their home. For those with sufficient financial resources to purchase land and housing, becoming a CLT leaseholder may represent an economic sacrifice.  As leaseholders, they will build equity only through their own investments in improvements, not through increases in market value due to other factors. Such people may choose to become CLT leaseholders because of lower financial costs required through the CLT, or for the sake of the community of support and friendship which it offers, or out of concern for providing affordable properties within the community for future use by their children, friends, and other.
           
Community Interests

Community Access: Access is limited by high rates of absentee ownership, or high rates of ownership by city governments and redevelopment agencies, and is made unavailable or unaffordable for neighborhood residents.
As the CLT acquires land it provides secure access to the land for individuals within the community - particularly those who have previously been denied the access to and benefits of land.
Community Equity: The community’s land and resources is the basic element of its economy, the original “commonwealth.” Yet present patterns of landownership and transfer often render land and their resources unavailable to the communities that occupy them. In these situations the economic benefits of community development are continually captured by a privileged few or drained away by outside interests. The community is deprived of its equity.
The community’s claim to this equity rests on two principles: that the inherent value of the land is not of human creation and thus cannot rightfully be regarded as personal income for any individual, and that the appreciated value of the land (as opposed to the value of improvements made to the land) is the result of the activity and efforts of individuals, organizations, and public agencies throughout the community and economic forces outside the community. By holding land permanently in trust, a CLT preserves for the community both the original value and any value that is added to it by the efforts of the community or larger economic forces. Individuals may not claim what belongs to the community as a whole.
Grim Paradox: By making their streets cleaner and safer, creating gardens, and playgrounds, renovating homes, and building a strong local economy, nieghborhood residents may initiate market forces which will increase property values, raise taxes and rents, and drive them from the community.
CLTs offer a means of preserving community equity. Any increase in value is retained and residents need not be displaced by real estate market forces.
Community Legacy: Using its ownership of the land and its power to grant or withhold leases, the CLT exercises effective community control over development. Specific land use plans can be formulated through democratic procedures and with expert advice where needed. The stability and character of established neighborhoods can be protected. Zoning boards and planning commissions have made efforts to evaluate and regulate development in their own communities. But in many instances, the initiative is in the hands of the owner/developer; land use hearings take on the character of adversarial proceedings, and the community lacks a firm economic base from which to offer or implement alternatives. CLTs should work in partnership with local government for the good of the community.
 
When government subsidies are provided to a community, the CLT can be the most effective recipient and administrator of these subsidies.  Many current government efforts to subsidize housing and other facilities can be likened to an attempt to help a hemorrhaging patient by administering repeated transfusions without any action to stop the bleeding. Transfusions of public money in such forms as acquisition and development funds, or rent and interest subsidies offer short term benefits to individuals and communities, but the value of the subsidy normally passes through the community.  It is not retained, so must be repeated or the community is abandoned. Through the CLT public funds can be retained for repeated use with multiple effect.
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